Ecclestone ready to ditch Silverstone

Bernie Ecclestone said the British Grand Prix is unlikely to go ahead in 2005, as an agreement cannot be reached with the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC). The BRDC has until the end of October to finalise a deal with Ecclestone to promote the Silverstone race but Bernie's patience has just about run out.

Bernie Ecclestone.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.

"As we have been unable to reach an agreement on the length of the commitment or the financial terms, we have to admit defeat and end the discussions," Ecclestone said, according to the UK's Daily Express newspaper.

The BRDC wants a two-year contract with an option on a further five years, but Ecclestone is holding fast for a one-year deal with an option on the next six. Ecclestone thinks he has made as many allowances as he can for the BRDC.

"I have a country knocking down my door for a race who are prepared to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to build a state-of-the-art circuit for F1 in the 21st century, and to make a guaranteed commitment to pay substantially more than we have agreed to accept from the BRDC," he said.

"I can't make a sensible business case for turning them down in order to give the BRDC a two-year deal at a significant discount, which they want while they make up their minds what they want to do."

"If in two years the BRDC decides it does not want to exercise the option, F1 will have lost the chance of an attractive new venue. I have to take a long term view and think about the championship as a whole, and not just one country."

Reportedly France, which was also given provisional status for 2005, has now completed its contract which is a further blow for Silverstone -- next season's calendar initially has 19 races but it's most likely that at least one will be dropped. Imola is also a provisional date.

"It looks certain that there will not be a British Grand Prix in 2005," Ecclestone concluded. "What more can anyone do? The BRDC want everything their way. Business life is not like that."

However, BRDC president Sir Jackie Stewart is not ready to concede defeat and believes the future of the race is still under discussion. "Bernie Ecclestone did commit to (UK Sport Minister) Richard Caborn that he would commit to a two-year contract in order to allow us to the situation we need to develop the land," Stewart told BBC radio.

He added: "He (Ecclestone) has already been paid in full for the British Grand Prix through 2010 by the previous promoters. I doubt there are as many Grands Prix around the world as he says he has to pay these prices."

"We need to get down again to negotiations and I think the minister needs to join in. They say the fat lady hasn't sung yet and I think to some extent that is true."